Rayland Baxter - Wide Awake - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Rayland Baxter - Wide Awake

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:9 Release Date:2018-07-13
Rayland Baxter - Wide Awake
Rayland Baxter - Wide Awake

Whenever a term, a name, a city is initially connected with an artist you are not particularly familiar with, you get this Pavlovian Dog reaction of what it might sound like. Now Rayland Baxter might be a name you’ve heard of, he came up with two albums previously, and checking out the reviews summarily you can see that he instantly became a critics favourite.

Still, you can’t exclude preconceptions. Checking out the press release for his third outing, Wide Awake, a few flashlights might catch your eye - the first one is that he’s from Nashville, the second is that Bucky Baxter, his father, who appears on the album, has played pedal steel guitar for Bob Dylan and Ryan Adams, the third is that among others he toured with Kacey Musgraves, the fourth that he recorded this album in a former rubber band factory transformed into a studio and you might not look any further.

Of course, the first thing that would come to mind would be country. Ok, maybe not country music as such, but some form of a countrified rock, a Nashville/California mashup in one form of the other. And you would be wrong.

Well, mostly. Not that Baxter abandons these ‘roots’ completely, but you would have to skip close to the end of the album and “Sandra Monica” to find anything that would even remotely bring that immediate ‘country’ reaction. You see, Baxter has been able to stick almost any modern pop idiom into the songs on this album without making them sound contrived or like a meaningless collage - from the soulful leanings of the opening “Strange American Dream” to Todd Rundgren-like pop of “Angeline”, or any great pop craftsman that can come up with a song like “Amelia Baker” or traces of Randy Newman in “Hey Larocco”.

All these, and any other song on the album is perfectly crafted and played and if you wanted to pull out any of their strains as to identify the inspiration you would probably destroy their very intricate construction, that simply works.

Mentioning Randy Newman actually brings up another element of excellence on this album, and that is Baxter’s lyrics. He can deal with almost anything, from family relations to celebrity infatuation to politics. You can’t miss the lines like “I close my eyes and realize that I’m alive inside this strange American dream” (“Strange American Dream”) or “you really wanna save the world, man / well, I wanna save it, too / we can blow ’em away / the American way.”(“79 Shiny Revolvers”).

These days you can easily get albums that you can simply enjoy solely for their musical qualities or on the other hand, make you think about things besides music. Rayland Baxter’s Wide Awake is that rarity that does both. An absolute delight.

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